Lena Headey's Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Mortal Instruments: City of Bones star.

by |

Lena Headey

A lot of her time is taken up with Game of Thrones these days, but Lena Headey hasn't forsaken her film career; in fact, she'll be seen in an impressive six movies (and counting) between 2013-14. One of those projects, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, is arriving in theaters this weekend, so we decided now would be the perfect time to take an appreciative look back at some of her most critically successful cinematic efforts. From quiet British dramas to Disney flicks and horror films, Lena's done a lot -- and it doesn't look like she'll be slowing down anytime soon. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the finest bits of her filmography here!


10. Onegin

One person's sumptuously acted period romance is another person's glacially paced snoozer -- and so it is with Onegin, first-time director Martha Fiennes' adaptation of the 1833 Russian novel about an arrogant dandy (Ralph Fiennes) whose rather careless treatment of two sisters (played by Headey and Liv Tyler) puts him at fateful odds with his friend (Toby Stephens). While Onegin was warmly received by critics on the global stage, earning a BAFTA nomination for Best Picture, the majority of American scribes found it too slow and mannered to breathe life into the book's deliberate drama -- although it did have its defenders, including Combustible Celluloid's Jeffrey M. Anderson, who wrote, "Overall, Onegin is a bit of a sloppy and untidy affair, but that goes a long way in distinguishing it from the 7000 other movies of this type."


9. Waterland

Headey earned her big break in 1992's Waterland, Stephen Gyllenhaal's tastefully assembled adaptation of the Graham Swift novel about a teacher (Jeremy Irons) who tries relating to his troubled students by filling them in on his turbulent youth in eastern England. While far from her most prominent role, Headey's appearance in Waterland kicked off her film career by surrounding her with an array of talented stars that also included Ethan Hawke and the legendary Pete Postlethwaite -- and made her part of a solidly assembled indie drama that earned positive reviews from critics like Janet Maslin of the New York Times, who wrote, "With a dazed, frightened expression and the keen sense that his life is coming undone, Mr. Irons's Tom becomes a rivetingly sad figure, and a sharp focus for the film's many reveries."


8. 300

She's made her fair share of corseted period pictures, but Lena Headey is also no stranger to genre fare, having appeared in a string of horror movies throughout her career -- and the twain sort of met in 2007's 300, which coupled historically-inspired drama against good old-fashioned blood and guts, all lavishly filmed with director Zack Snyder's distinctive lens. Inspired by Frank Miller's comic (which was in turn inspired by the Battle of Thermopylae), 300 racked up more than $450 million in worldwide grosses, thanks to audiences' unquenchable thirst for great-looking men (including a well-muscled Gerard Butler) and women (including Headey as the occasionally unclothed Queen Gorgo) taking part in impossibly bloody swords 'n' sandals drama; it also found purchase with a surprising number of critics, including Jack Mathews of the New York Daily News, who admitted, "It's impossible not to be moved by its nearly nonstop visual assault."


7. Possession

Neil LaBute isn't exactly known for his way with romance, but the famously misanthropic writer/director made a well-received foray into the genre with the pleasantly twisty Possession, starring Gwyneth Paltrow opposite LaBute mainstay Aaron Eckhart as a pair of modern-day literary scholars whose investigation into the possibility of an affair between a pair of Victorian poets (Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle) leads to an unexpected love connection of their own. As Ehle's potentially spurned partner, Headey rounded out a supporting cast that included Tom Hollander and Toby Stephens; "While the film probably won't leave you swooning," admitted Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald, "it is at least an earnest love letter to its transcendent source."


6. The Summer House (Clothes in the Wardrobe)

Headey is dishwater-dull as the betrothed Margaret in The Summer House, but that isn't her fault -- the character, as written by Alice Thomas Ellis in her novel and as adapted by director Waris Hussein here, serves as the mousy counterpoint to the story's true star, a larger-than-life family friend (unforgettably played by Jeanne Moreau) who swans in to save her from being pushed into marrying the limp-wristed boy next door (David Threlfall). It didn't make much of an impression at the box office, but House was generally well regarded by critics -- if only as a vehicle for the irrepressible Moreau, whose stack of accolades included a review from the Washington Post's Rita Kempley. Describing "her acid tongue and her flaming hair," Kempley credited her with devouring "this droll British comedy as if it were chaparral and she a raging California brush fire."